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Principal Investigator: Dr. Kimberly Bender, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

Community Partner: James Erangey, Connor Marvin, Meredith Mollica, and Tom Lucas, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

Title: Mutual Aid as a Bridge to Social Capital and Civic Engagement among Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Using participatory research methods, this study aims to partner with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) to understand how mutual aid (i.e., peer-to-peer support) can support young people experiencing homelessness to build social capital and civic engagement. The CCH team will serve as co-researchers with the University of Denver and will be active partners in study design, data collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination.

Together, the research team will conduct individual interviews, collect structured weekly journal entries and facilitate three photovoice projects with 24 young people experiencing homelessness to build deep insight into how:

  1. Young people experiencing homelessness perceive mutual aid provided by peer workers
  2. Peer workers experience their role, including the personal benefits, challenges and needs associated with providing mutual aid
  3. Young people experiencing homelessness conceptualize social capital and civic engagement

Using a grounded theory approach to analysis, the team will create an empirically driven, youth-informed model of mutual aid (i.e., peer programming) for young people experiencing homelessness, including strategies for recruiting, selecting, training, supporting, and supervising peer workers as agents of social capital and civic engagement. All team members will collaborate to share findings via established local and national community-based provider networks and the scientific community. 

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